Press Release
December 4, 2017

Joint hearing of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines

If the pioneers of commercial aviation in the country saw the airline industry today, they would feel like Alice staring through the looking glass. For instance, they would see massive airliners instead of the ten-seater, tri-engine aircraft of their heyday. There would be a sprawling commercial complex where Grace Park Airfield used to be. And if they flew via time travel from Iloilo in the 1930s to Manila today, they would not be able to land in Nielson Field, as its runways now comprise Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue.

Clearly, our airline industry has progressed by leaps and bounds. Our airports are now the veins of our country, pumping people, cargo, and revenue into the economy. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the air transport and storage industry contributed 7.03 billion pesos last quarter. The Department of Tourism also noted that 523,493 tourists entered the country through our airports last May 2017, comprising 98.26% of all tourist arrivals in the country.

However, our airports have recently begun to show signs of strain. For instance, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), NAIA breached its rated capacity of 30 million passengers five years ago. Sixty (60) million passengers passed through NAIA's gates last year. News articles and social media posts would confirm delayed flights, stranded passengers and lines snaking around the airport. Personal ko itong naranasan noong pumila ako ng isa't kalahating oras sa NAIA Terminal 2 noong nakaraang Mayo. I have to say there has been some improvements.

In addition, our best and our brightest technical people in the aviation sector are leaving because of the low pay they receive despite the responsibility on their shoulders.

Due to these issues, we decided to convene the COCCAAP, which was established under Section 91 Republic Act No. 9497, otherwise known as the "Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008" to ensure the proper implementation of the law.

Airport congestion is one of the more prominent issues among the topics to be tackled today, especially as we are in the holiday season. Airport congestion will be aggravated by the impending Christmas rush. Families will be lining up outside airports with their placards para salubungin ang kanilang kapamilyang balikbayan. What steps will the CAAP take to ensure the smooth flow of our balikbayans from the passenger cabin to the exit gate?

What are we doing to ameliorate those who are affected by delayed flights, lalo na para sa mga mas matagal ang pag-antay sa airport sa mismong biyahe? Dagdag pa rito, umaasa ako na walang ma-iinpsire na gumawa ng sequel sa Tanim Bala Scam na pwede nating tawaging "Isang Bala ka Lang!" dahil isang bala lang ang kailangan para maperwisyo ang mga kababayan natin at ma-hold sa airport.

We are expecting the CAAP and other concerned resource persons to have clear and concise answers on their projects and programs on these issues.

We also want an update on two major projects which were supposed to improve airport operations. The first of these is the Communications Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management System (CNS/ATM) which was promised last June. Is it operational yet? How much did it cost? What impact has it had on air traffic management?

The second major project is the proposed Rapid Exit Taxiway. From what experts have told me, the design of NAIA's two runways create difficulties for arrivals and departures. For instance, international arrivals are allowed only on Runway 24. Thus, it has been proposed that additional rapid exit taxiways be constructed.

What is the status of the proposed additional rapid exit taxiways? Will they be done through Public-Private Partnership (PPPs)? Hopefully they will not stay in that dreaded category of PPPs known as Power Point Presentations. And if construction will proceed by next year, what will CAAP do to reduce disruption of existing operations?

We would also like to tackle the issues around the benefits of CAAP employees which were disallowed by the Commission on Audit (COA). What are the most recent updates regarding the disallowance? This is important, especially given the ongoing exodus of aviation professionals. After all, competitive benefits are not sufficient. There must also be certainty of receipt.

In the book "Philippine Wings," it is claimed that the first Filipino airplane passenger was an Igorot chieftain named Gagaban. The year was 1911, just eight years after the Wright Brothers started the pioneer era of aviation with the flight of the first airplane. In those days, the skies seemed infinite, a common resource for all of mankind.

Now however, our airspace and runways more closely hew to the textbook definition of scarce resources: increasingly limited in availability, but with great potential use. Now more than ever, our airspace and runways demand more strategic and more efficient management.

Let's not wait for NAIA to become the punchline of a new millennial hugot joke: "NAIA ka ba? Kasi lagi mo sinasabing kailangan mo ng space!"

News Latest News Feed